Governing body help strengthen school improvement

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Governor working with pupils

Trinant Primary governors bring a variety of strengths and expertise to the school. The governing body are fully committed to school improvement and undertake their responsibilities seriously. Their work follows the school’s self-improvement toolkit and feeds into the school’s self-evaluation process. Training has had a positive impact on the effectiveness of the governing body. They have regular involvement in school life which allows them to work as part of a team and share a common goal in seeking a high level of success for pupils.

Number of pupils: 153
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: February 2019

Information about the school

Trinant Primary is in the village of Trinant, near Crumlin in the county borough of Caerphilly.  There are 153 pupils on roll, including 28 part time nursery pupils.  Pupils are taught in five mixed age classes.  Over the past three years, around 34% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is well above the Wales average of 18%.  The school has identified around 30% of its pupils as having additional learning needs, which is well above the Wales average of 21%.

The headteacher took up her post in November 2011.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Trinant Primary has a strong track record of improvement over time despite higher than average levels of free school meals and pupils registered as having additional learning needs.

Our motto ‘Stepping Stones to Success’ reflects the learning journey pupils undertake and that we all take different routes at different times, but all experience success.  Central to the vision is that ‘we treat each other like our family’, which results in everyone ‘going the extra mile’ and not wanting to disappoint or let anyone down.  This is at the heart of the school and key to continued successful school improvement.

Trinant Primary has been fortunate in maintaining a stable governing body over time, with the chair being in post for over 20 years.  The school believes that this is a testament to the commitment it has in ensuring that their village school remains at the heart of the community and delivers a good quality education for all.

Over the past two years, the governing body has worked to raise its active participation at the school.  Governor training has had a positive impact on the effectiveness of the governing body, which has impacted on its ability to challenge and support the school strategically as a cohesive group. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity: The Role of the Governing Body in School Improvement

The governing body members are fully committed to school improvement.  They are allocated specific roles and responsibilities, which they undertake seriously.  They regularly share their findings and knowledge in meetings and follow the school’s self-improvement toolkit.  As a result, their work directly feeds into the school’s self-evaluation processes.

Trinant Primary governors bring a variety of strengths and expertise to the school.  All have specific roles to play, such as having a strategic role, or supporting school improvement in a more ‘hands on’ way.  Governors’ knowledge and participation in the day to day running of the school is a strength.  For example, the governor with responsibility for MAT (more able and talented) visits the school weekly and delivers challenging maths activities.  Other governors support with gardening, healthy cooking, and eco activities and with delivering fortnightly assemblies.  The governor with responsibility for the SER (self-evaluation report) serves as a catalyst for building evaluation capacity within the school.  These sessions allow the pupils to interact with governors, allowing for good relationships to develop and for governors to gain a greater insight into everyday school life.  In meetings, governors are better placed to share their knowledge with other governing body members, updating them for example on progress of the SDP priorities (school development plan), and the enthusiasm, engagement and behaviour of pupils.

Governors fully participate in an annual school self-evaluation day in the summer term.  During this day they contribute and evaluate the impact of the SDP priorities and discuss a range of evidence provided by staff.  Governors have an honest and open discussion on the impact of priorities and the effectiveness of the SDP.  Governors challenge the impact of provision on standards and identify the next steps.  Priorities for the forthcoming year are identified effectively and governors discuss cost implications, sustainability and their relevance to national and local priorities.  A draft SDP is agreed.

At the autumn term meeting, the performance of the school compared to similar schools is considered.   Pupils’ outcomes and achievement levels are discussed and adjustments may be made to SDP in light of performance data.

A successful feature is the frequency of governors, staff and pupils meetings to discuss developments in specific areas of learning.  During these sessions, governors undertake learning walks, listen to learners and scrutinise pupil learning activities.  Progress updates on the effectiveness of the SDP also feature strongly during these discussions.

Regular governor training has underpinned the governing body’s effective self-evaluation and the ability to ask the right questions such as:

What do you know? What does it tell you? How does that compare with any benchmarking or national comparison? What do you need to improve?

The school has a strategic monthly calendar of activities.  Governors’ monitoring consists of:

  • monthly meetings with members of the finance committee that ensure that they have recent and relevant updates on spending and details of effective use of grants and outcomes for pupils
  • timetabled monthly sessions with the governor responsible for the SER, which allows for the joint monitoring of standards across the school and for effective engagement with all subject leaders
  • the governor with responsibility for ALN (additional learning needs) assessing the impact of termly provision for pupils with ALN and vulnerable groups of learners; exit and entry criteria for support are discussed and an informed discussion takes place on the next steps for the pupils and the provision
  • the governor with responsibility for attendance monitoring attendance closely in line with the Callio system (the locally agreed attendance policy and procedure) and the impact of updates and interventions
  • half termly meetings with the full governing body, often involving presentations by pupils showcasing projects, skills and standards, which gives a context to school improvement

Governor involvement continuously challenges the school to operate as an effective learning organisation. 

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Governors’ regular involvement in school life allows them to work as part of a team that share a common goal in seeking a high level of success for pupils.  Regular monitoring by the governing body ensures consistency in standards and of the innovative application of skills across the curriculum.  The understanding of the governing body in analysing pupil progress over time and the knowledge of standards within the school ensures that they challenge and provide support if there are variations in outcomes.  Their first-hand knowledge of the school helps to embed a deep understanding of the needs of the pupils and the wider community.  This knowledge is drawn upon when agreeing short and long term priorities for the school.

Their engagement in self-evaluation allows them to understand the needs of pupils, their rates of progress and an ability to ask challenging questions of staff, including middle and senior leaders.

How have you shared your good practice?

There is considerable school-to-school working within the cluster, local authority and across the consortia.  This has been shared in the form of Lead Network Schools (LNS) and via numerous bespoke partnerships.